RUSI-YouGov Poll: Assessing American Power

American flag small59 per cent of RUSI survey panel oppose bombing enrichment and other facilities thought to be related to an Iranian weapons programme, but 77 per cent support use of cyber warfare to undermine Iran's nuclear programme, according to a poll of the defence and security community conducted by Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in association with YouGov-Cambridge.

Assessing American Power: RUSI Defence and Security Survey 2012 asked 1,456 individuals from RUSI's defence and security community a series of questions about the United States, its position in the world and related security questions ahead of the US Presidential Election.

** Please note: all percentages are of those surveyed from RUSI's defence and security community and ARE NOT representative of wider populations or demographic groups. **

Selected highlights from the RUSI annual defence and security survey include:

  • 77 per cent support use of cyber warfare to undermine Iran's nuclear programme
  • 59 per cent oppose bombing enrichment and other facilities thought to be related to an Iranian weapons programme
  • 80 per cent in favour of increased economic sanctions on Iran
  • 46 per cent think the US faces the same threat level from terrorist attacks now as it did at the beginning of the Obama Presidency
  • 69 per cent believe Al-Qa'ida have grown weaker since 2009
  • 84 per cent think the US will be the world's leading power in 2016
  • 54 per cent consider President Obama's relations with Russia have not changed since 2009
  • 28 per cent believe President Obama has improved relations with Middle East and North Africa, versus 34 per cent who say he has worsened relations and 32 per cent who say he has made little or no difference to relations with the region.
  • 80 per cent agree that the US is the UK's most important ally
  • 57 per cent agree that generally the US does not consider the UK's interests

Commenting on the survey findings concerning Iran, Shashank Joshi, RUSI's Research Fellow wrote:

'Cyber warfare receives strong backing. Such support may stem from the claimed effectiveness and low cost of the joint US-Israel cyber warfare programme, codenamed Olympic Games, whose most prominent weapon was the Stuxnet virus that destroyed a fifth of Iranian centrifuges in 2010. A separate worm, Flame, has also been stealing vast amounts of data from Iranian computers. However, opposition to this tactic may grow if Iranian retaliation is effective, as it may have been against Saudi Arabia's state oil company in the summer.'

'A majority of respondents are also opposed to bombing Iranian enrichment facilities, but over a third express support.'

'It is highly likely that these figures conceal a number of qualifications: opinion would certainly depend on whether a strike interrupted diplomacy, came before Iran had enriched beyond 20 per cent (which would have no peaceful purpose), or in the absence of clear and credible indications of an Iranian dash for a bomb. These and other conditions are those that will shape how British policymakers do in fact respond to or assist any multinational military action against Iran.'

Joshi also notes that this survey comes at an important time.

'On 22 October Barack Obama and Mitt Romney conducted their third and final debate in Boca Raton, Florida, devoted to foreign affairs. Previously, Mr Romney had repeatedly accused the President of weakness in dealing with Iran. He continued this line of attack at the debate; the President responded by emphasing the damage being wrought by sanctions, though he could not publicly boast of clandestine efforts such as Olympic Games.'

'The more significant differences between the candidates on Iran may very well lie in three areas unexplored at the debates: first, their willingness to respond to any unilateral Israeli strike on Iran, in order to more durably damage Iran's nuclear facilities; second, their openness to talking bilaterally with Iran, something that the New York Times alleged the Obama administration planned to do after the elections (Romney has refused to say whether he supports this); and, third, their willingness to strike a deal with Tehran that would allow Iran to retain a limited enrichment capability,' writes Joshi.

'Romney may be more hawkish on all three counts, although his public positions are flexible enough to allow for a policy that would look remarkably similar to that pursued by this White House. That policy broadly conforms to the surveyed views in this report: crippling sanctions, covert action, diplomacy, and, for now, a sidelining of the military option,' Joshi concludes.   

Each year, RUSI invites members and associates to comment on annual policy issues. This defence and security survey is the third annual RUSI poll of its network, and the first in association with YouGov-Cambridge.

To read the survey in full, please visit 


  • 1. Assessing American Power: RUSI Defence and Security Survey 2012 was conducted using online interview administered to RUSI's network of members and associates who have agreed to take part in surveys. Total sample size was 1,456 individuals from around the world. Fieldwork was undertaken by YouGov between 8 and 16 October 2012. The figures are not weighted and are not nationally representative of the British adult population.
  • 2. An email was sent to panelists from sectors including the armed forces, business, the media, academia, the diplomatic community and politics, inviting them to take part in the survey and providing a link to the survey.
  • 3. The full survey, together with expert analysis, can be found at:
  • 4. YouGov-Cambridge is the academic research arm of YouGov, which brings polling and academic experts together to collaborate in opinion-research on transnational and global issues.
  • 5. RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.

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